Event:Anheuser Busch Colonial Half Marathon
When & Where:1 p.m. Feb. 24, Williamsburg, Va.
Results: 1:51:53 (watch time)/1:52:32 (gun time)/14th out of 50 in 35-39 age group and 413 of 857 overall.
Colonial Williamsburg, about 80 miles northwest of where I’m currently living, draws thousands of tourists and history buffs each year with its live-action resurrection of pre-Revolutionary War life in the soon-to-be United States. Today, more than 800 runners flocked to one of the oldest areas in America to experience the revolution of their feet over 13.1 miles of challenging, rolling hills.
I ran this race in 2006 as a two-hour easy training run and looked forward to traveling the pretty course again. Today practicing marathon-pace running on hills was the goal.
I left North Carolina at 9:30 a.m., plenty of time for the out of the ordinary 1 p.m. race start time. Runners sign in and wait in William and Mary Hall, the athletic fieldhouse for the College of William & Mary. W & M is a strong running school, so the race is a fitting fund-raiser for the school’s athletic programs.
Going to races alone can be lonely, so it was nice to see familiar faces when I arrived. A local running friend and occasional partner, Bill, was ready for the Half. His son Brett pinned a number on for his second-ever 5K, and Bill’s wife Kathy was there to cheer for her guys. Another Cathie, who trains with the same coach as I do, came west from her home in Virginia Beach for the Half. Cathie and I, who paired up for many coached track workouts last fall, decided to start together and see how long we wanted to run in tandem today.
How do you eat for an early afternoon race? My solution was my normal long run breakfast at 7 a.m., followed by a Clif Bar and Gatorade at 11. I didn’t feel any hunger or stomach discomfort before the start, and pinned a Gu to my shorts for a mid-race boost.
This being one-third of Virginia’s Historic Triangle, a fife and drum corps marched from the field house to lead the runners to the start. We jogged down and around to warm up, then got in the Port-a-John line with what I hoped was enough time until the start. But as soon as my turn came, I heard the gun go off. Oops! I ran out as quickly as I could and kept going to catch up with the field. Somehow I remembered to start my watch at the line, and the race was on!
My first mile was a combination of surging to catch up to Cathie, wasting energy maneuvering around others, and trying to adjust hastily pulled up shorts with built-in briefs. I caught Cathie and got comfortable, so it was time to settle in to pace. At Mile 1 my watch showed 8:27. Each mile varied from 8:15 – 8:39 except Mile 11 where my right hamstring threatened to cramp if I asked it to power up one more hill, so I eased off to a 9:18 mile.
The course starts on campus and travels through a small section of hillyWilliamsburg before heading out on a hilly private paved drive through the woods for four hilly miles. Then there’s a short loop bordering a hilly golf course and cutting through Busch corporate grounds before retracing the hilly woods and, by then, mercilessly climbing back up through hillyWilliamsburg to finish inside William & Mary Hall. It is as fun and full of sights as it is difficult!
Williamsburg’s hills aren’t steep, but constantly rolling. The race includes scant flat segments, so it’s great practice for Boston. I laughed as one male runner in front of me opted to skip down the hills and run the other segments. Another pair, ultrarunners perhaps, walked the uphills and easily caught me past the summits. In the last mile I enviously told them, “You two have the right idea!”
The race has one of those torturing, teasing ends where you arrive at the Finish area but have to circumnavigate it, Mecca like, before entering. I was ready to be done and charged into the fieldhouse feeling strong. Cathie was done less than a minute later. Waiting at the finish was Barbara, a race volunteer who I know from an online running community. It was a treat to come in and see her smiling face, then get acquainted in person for a little while.
I transitioned into the 21st century for a few hours with stops to eat at Quizno’s and shop at Trader Joe’s, Borders Books, and Target in Newport News before driving back across the state line into the also historic, but definitely not hilly, Dismal Swamp.
As I rolled the last couple miles to my house, the ’80s new wave hit “I Ran” by A Flock of Seagulls played on the radio.